Belly Love

Ahhh my belly. Sometimes I TRULY don't give it enough love. Or (realistically) love it at all.

Let's go back 10 years ago. I had just gotten engaged and was mid wedding planning. I decided I NEEDED to lose weight to be the most beautiful bride ever. At that time, Atkins was all the rage. Carbs were out. I couldn't stomach the whole "all meat, all the time" diet (*snicker*) so I modified it to low fat, low carb, lots of gum. SUUUUPER healthy. My diet consisted of: hot dogs, carrots, gum, turkey on high fiber bread, bourbon chicken from Publix, fajita salad, wine, Splenda and did I mention gum? Healthy I was NOT. My poor belly. But I was a beautiful bride {not because of my weight loss}. Albeit a bit skinny.

My girls

My unhealthy eating carried on for a few years. I would lose and gain about 10lbs and while I thought I looked good, I didn't feel good. And then it started impacting other parts of my life.

I wanted to be a mom.

My cycles were non-existant. Although I was not underweight, I was not eating enough healthy fats or carbs. I wasn't ovulating. I couldn't even get pregnant if I wanted to, let alone sustain life. After almost 2 years of trying and many tears, I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Possibly the most frustrating diagnosis known to man. What does that even mean -- unexplained??

Now, I'm not sure if was my diet screwing me over or what, but when I took a break from my fertility treatments I added a lot of food back into my diet - including healthy fats and carbs. And VOILA! I finally got pregnant.

This is me when I was 5 weeks pregnant with Braeden. When I thought I was "huge" and "fat."

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Pregnancy was EYE OPENING for me. For the first time in YEARS I ate WHATEVER I wanted. I still worked out, I didn't over eat (my body wouldn't let me, to be honest), and I was HAPPY. I love being pregnant and this is a HUGE reason why. I found my happy place.

Now, I'm not going to lie and say that gaining weight wasn't hard. IT WAS. It was hard to see the change (especially before I started showing), and it was hard to hear that there was a weight gain. But, it was also easier to accept because it was definitely for a good cause. In the end, I gained about 20lbs. Very, very modest and in my case very healthy!

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100_0329 Hellllloooo baby! I'm around 40 weeks here.

After Braeden was born, I was stressed about losing the weight and getting my belly back to normal. I think every pregnant woman does this, but if there is any advice I could give it would be: "DON'T."  I'm among the lucky women who lose weight while breastfeeding and I dropped the pounds and then some over the course of the first year (and I of course I gained the "then some back" over time).

Unfortunately though, once you have a baby -- your body is NEVER the same.100_0471 2 weeks post partum. Gross saggy skin - but hey, my pants fit!

There are ways to get it KINDA back though. In fact, the very first exercise that I did was planks. I highly recommend them if you are post-partum or about to have a baby (or really any time). Not only do they help suck in your newly aquired "mom gut" but they help strengthen your core, help with your hip flexors (they are ALL out of wack), and they also build your back muscles, which help you carry that bambino around (especially once they hit 20-25lbs!). But at some point, you just have to accept the way things are. And that means appreciating the belly you didn't appreciate pre-baby. Crazy how that works.

One thing pregnancy did for me was make me less paranoid about my body image. Instead of going crazy town and trying to maintain a weight that is 10lbs less than my body's happy place, I continued my healthy eating. I contribute this healthy eating to the reason that I got pregnant with my second, Ollvia, without even really trying (I mean, there was trying, obviously). Surprise!

There is something most people don't mention when you have subsequent kids, but it becomes pretty evident rather quickly: There's no hiding the pregnancy. I was seriously pregnant when I was 13 weeks (I started wearing maternity clothes at 8 weeks. I didn't wear maternity clothes the first time until at least 22 weeks).My belly just popped right out there.

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5 weeks pregnant with L -- much different than the 1st time around!

Again, I stuck with my eat whatever I want diet. Although pregnancy with Livie was different and a lot more challenging. I had ALL DAY sickness with her between 6 weeks and 16 weeks. I could get up and workout just fine -- and then between 8am and 3pm I was SO nauseous, I thought I was going to die. Eating temporarily helped. So I did. A LOT. I gained about 12-14lbs the first 20 weeks and I admit I was FREAKING out. That secret, body image obsessed part of me could not control herself. But, I had to let it go. The majority of my weight gain the first time was the LAST 20 weeks, so I didn't know what to think. I also felt SO MUCH bigger. My belly was GIGANTIC and my belly button popped in the 1st trimester.

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About 14 weeks. I looked like this at 22 weeks with Braeden!

Instead of stressing though - I did what made my belly happy. I ate. I enjoyed food. I nourished my baby. I ate a lot of French fries. I mean, A LOT. I ended up only gaining 18lbs (which, for me was perfectly healthy, per my Dr). Listening to my body and my BELLY was the best thing I could do. (PS - Livie was almost 9lbs pounds and VERY healthy!)

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3 weeks before my due date!

IMG_3808 On L's birthday. She was born approx 12 hours later.

Now, I would be lying if I told you I LOVE how my belly looks after having 2 babies. I don't. It's saggy and wrinkly. My belly button never popped back in. I think it's still somewhat discolored (even after 3.5 years). It's kinda mushy. My daughter asks me if I have a baby in my belly all the time, "because it looks like there's one in there." (3 year olds are brutally honest)

IMG_4010 2 weeks post-partum -- looking about 20 weeks pregnant!

BUT it's also amazing. It's supported 2 babies. Their kicks. Their punches. Their body parts moving around. My belly has been stretched to the MAX and it STILL supports me in everything that I do.

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Today's belly

It helps me lift weights, spin, sit, stand and supports me when I hold, hug, and snuggle my kids (and my hubby).

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Oh, and it helps me run marathons, too.

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My belly is MORE than just a fad diet. It's more than the food I put into it. It's more then 2 pregnancies (and hopefully one more!). It's been shoved around and stretched out and it can take it. It's worthy of good food, good wine, and exercise. It took me a long and a long road to realize that the way you view yourself, is the way others see you too. In the end, I can definitely say I love my belly (and so much more than I ever thought I would!), just the way it is. 

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